April 24, 2014
DEKALB. Ill. - The Northern Illinois University women's golf team heads to Fishers, Ind. to open play in the 2014 Mid-American Conference Women's Golf Championships at The Hawthorns Golf & Country Club Friday.
The nine-team field will play single rounds on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Hosted by Ball State, the Cardinals and Huskies will be joined by Akron, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Ohio, Toledo and Western Michigan. The MAC's 45 golfers will play a course that is 6,102 yards and plays a par of 72. NIU will be playing with Western Michigan and Akron to open play Friday. There will be live scoring available of BirdieFire.com.
NIU prepared for this year's championships by playing in five 54-hole tournaments this year, including three in the spring. Last season, NIU didn't participate in any. The Huskies have also faced its fellow MAC brethren in many of their tournaments this spring.
"It takes a toll on your body, doing either 36-18 or 18-18-18," said NIU head coach Kim Kester of playing in 54-hole tournaments. "We've had quite a bit of success this year. We've had a lot of the tournaments we've been in it in two out of the three rounds. We want to see three goods for this tournament especially.
"Any team can win it on any given day. Hopefully we put ourselves in contention to have a good run at it on the third day."
The Huskies are averaging 314 as a team in 23 rounds of play and fired a season-low, 299 in the final round of the Islander Classic. In the final round of the Rio Verde Invitational, NIU posted a 300 after carding a 304 in the first round. Ellett scored a 228 to take 16th in the Islander Classic and Niemiec posted a 228 in Rio Verde to also finish 16th.
"At the Rio Verde we beat eight of the MAC schools in two of the three rounds," Kester said. "The girls see their hard work is paying off. They see how close they are to it. When you're beating schools like that two of the three days, there's just one day you have to get them or hold it together."
Senior Jenny Niemiec
(St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles East) and sophomore Connie Ellett
(Hampshire, Ill./Hampshire) are the only two Huskies with MAC Championships experience. Niemiec took 26th last year at Longaberger and sophomore Ellett finished 35th with a 248 (81-85-82).
Freshmen Lena Gautier (La Celle Saint Cloud, France/Creteil) and Sydney Brickey (Burtchville, Mich./Shattuck-St. Mary's) have led the way for the Huskies. Gautier, who came to NIU in the spring, is averaging 78.2 in 13 rounds of golf, while Brickey's 78.6 average was achieved in 23 rounds. Sophomore Samantha Coyne (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) has played in all but one event and is averaging 79.9. All three will be participating in their first MAC Championship.
The best finish for NIU at the league championships came at the inaugural event in 1999 when the Huskies placed fifth with a 1,014. Their lowest score in a 54-hole tournament was last season's 983 when NIU took eighth. The lowest single round score for the Huskies was a 302 in the third round of the 2006 MAC Championships at Walden Ponds when the event was four rounds.
Tara Hawkins' sixth-place finish at the 2002 event was the highest by a Huskie at the MAC Championships, while Kelsie Passolt's 233 at the 2012 tournament is the lowest 54-hole score in team history at the event. Passolt is NIU's last top-10 finisher as she took eighth in 2012.